United Airlines stopped honoring refunds for cancelled flights, and changed the terms of refunds for significant schedule changes, several times over the last three months. They went to extreme lengths to conserve cash, keeping customer money even when not providing promised services. They were slapped around vigorously by the Department of Transportation and have finally relented.
Until March 6th United’s policy was to honor refunds when they changed a passenger’s schedule by more than two hours. Customers who bought tickets under that policy could reasonably expect it to be honored, and changing to 24 hours and then 6 hours and torturing the English language with claims that the airline never cancels flights as long as they still serve a route sometimes was clearly against the law.
It took awhile but Zach Honig reports that United Airlines will once again provide full refunds when they cancel flights or even change the schedule of the ticket you purchased by two hours or more. He quotes an airline spokesperson,
We are continually looking at ways to better support our customers, and as part of that effort, we’ve updated our guidelines for handling refunds when our flight schedule changes. We have always provided refunds for refundable tickets, and these updated guidelines will offer additional flexibility to our customers requesting refunds for non-refundable tickets when flight changes occur. If our customers would like to check on their refund eligibility, they can go to united.com/refunds to submit a request.
This statement is priceless – United claims to have spent the last three months ‘looking at ways to better support their customers’ and what they’ve discovered what they needed to do is,
- Honor their legal obligation
- Honor the terms that were in place when customers purchased tickets
Shocking discovery they’ve made! I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the exchanges between United and the Department of Transportation that finally led to this.
The best news here, by the way, is that even if you were forced to accept a travel vouchers you can contact United for an exchange. You were entitled to a refund if your flight was cancelled, or if the airline changed its schedule more than two hours. And United will honor this policy retroactively, even where they had previously reneged.